Sermon Thirty Christians must be law abiding

john                                     audio clip

This is weird to me because I remember that moment when the law that was binding me fell away. And yes as Wesley said, I behaved badly, but in doing that I realised to be lawless, unbound by the fetters of Almost Christianity, was not what was intended.

I was clearly shown two routes, one led to heaven, one to hell, one narrow, one wide. Once we are infused by the love of God, the law becomes part of it and it seems like no law because we desire to follow it, we follow it because it is written in our hearts and we can’t help but follow it. To turn away from the law and from God takes effort, physical effort to turn the head and be distracted by the world. If we are not focused on Christ that movement becomes easier, and that is why we see people drifting away ever so slowly rather than “right that is it I want to be a sinner in sinland now”

Wesley is having a theological argument at the time this is written to those called Antinomians in general and various church denominations down through the ages for example Mennonites. The argument is whether you believe you have been justified by faith alone and then can do anything or that you have been justified by faith and because of that you follow the law, I think.

To quell Mosaic law though is to quell the ten commandments among other things. One thing that fascinates me is how one verse is universally abolished and the next causes rifts in the fabric of many churches. In 2015 we shall see how our church fares. No doubt when that time comes I will write voluminously so I won’t here.

I suppose I look at the sermon and the arguments from the outside, this doesn’t really apply to me. Now there are very personal reasons why I ensure I follow the law innately, not least because I am called by the Holy Spirit to do so, because as a member of an established church with covering we are called to and because of this very tentative next step. I am not Pharisean  in my following, I have done that in the past when I didn’t call myself a Christian, I am not judgemental on those who cannot for whatever reason follow a particular law, I know my weaknesses and now I ensure I keep away from the distractions that lead me on to the wide road.

Wesley finally points to law of love as opposed to the law of fear. He is on middle ground between the “Law and nothing but the Law” and “Grace and nothing but Grace” Methodism often finds itself there, rationally sitting on the fence, others call it. Rather I call it, keeping the door open for all to come in.

Sermon Twenty Eight The Two builders

john                                  audio clip

 

Wesley spends little time pointing out those whose inwards worship was contrary to their outward ostentatious worship,  who fully expect to be in heaven but don’t arrive. He is particularly pointed at clergy who may have brought souls to Christ but themselves are not there. So he is basically talking about those under the Law who do not know the saving grace of Christ, who are not basking in the glow of his love. He himself spent many years preaching before he was saved so he has that experience. The inward assent to the Lordship of Christ, when we give our hearts, minds and bodies and souls to the Lord, that faith, belief, confidence in and assurance that grows from a mustard seed into a mighty tree with roots of faith firmly planted on the rock, Christ.

Motivation – what is your motive for doing good works, why do you feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Preach the “good news?” For your glory? Or is all glory quite rightly directed to the Lord?

Jesus is the firm foundation on which we build our faith. That faith that itself was a gift from God. Church, the church, the guy in the pulpit or woman for that matter, they are not the foundation on which to plant your feet. Innocence from sin, piety, good works alone, are all false foundations that lead us to the broad road to everlasting damnation!

Gosh a cheery sermon this innit!

Repent of your sins, love the Lord your God with everything you have (inwardly and outwardly) love each and every human on this planet because God loves them and because he wants us to share the love he has given us.

Our religion, our motivation, our enduring convictions whatever way you want to think of that is of the heart. The fruit of Spirit springing forth from our hearts into our thoughts, words and actions. Be mild, be humble, be patient, be loving, be gentle, exert self control etc.

Sinking sand is not a good place, the dank darkness of the pit is not a good place, the good place is accepting Jesus as your Saviour and Lord and letting him rule in your life. There is a beautiful place, a wonderful peaceful place near to you, go visit, stay awhile, stay some more then stay in that beautiful place that gives you joy and is pleasing to the Lord. Be a living sacrifice to the Lord because you have been washed clean in his blood. Without the Lord nothing is possible, with him nothing is impossible!

Praise the Lord

Hallelujah!

Praise the Lord

Sermon Twenty Five On judgement

john                                                    audio clip

I am so glad that it was one of Wesley’s drier sermons that I read this morning. I can only imagine the puddle I would have become if it was one of his discourses on all-in-all Christians. I am in a state of being overwhelmed, I am hoping it will pass or I will have to put off something I am supposed to do on Sunday to another time, maybe never.

So when collywobbles attack a good dose of 18th Century dry writing is needed. I definitely think that this sermon was written at a time when Wesley was being criticised from all sides. It reads more like a defence than teaching. In other sermons he has explained why the use of certain things would have been important to the Jews but here there is no mention of the importance of “dogs” or “pigs.” He suggests that this part of the sermon is directed at non-Christians chiefly which I do not concur with.

Why?

Non-Christians believe us to be the most judgemental people, and we as church body have to accept this criticism. In Wesley’s time and in ours people on the outside looking in say things like “That’s not very Christian, or, that’s not how a Christian should behave” and yet in our churches we judge. One woman puts on her very best clothes and looks so stylish and yet is very poor causing another to cast aspersions on her poverty. Because churches have all kinds of people in them, seekers, almost and all-in-all there is judgement.

Instead of getting our lives in order and taking the log out of our eye, we look around and think “Well I am doing okay compared to…”

Shame on us, we primarily should be focused on our individual walk with the Lord not getting distracted by this one or that. Our hearts must remain soft, beating to the God’s rhythm and we cannot do that by looking left and right at our sisters and brothers. Now even if we ourselves do not judge we have to take corporate responsibility for all our church family. We should be showing people how not to judge without indulging people.

The reason I don’t judge is because I have seen the face of human judgement against me and it was not pretty. It was horrific. It is the reason I find it so hard to share my testimony locally. Maybe that is why the collywobbles have started, because I must give an account of it next week – only two minutes followed by three on something else. What to leave out, what to keep in? Will I just walk away so they don’t have the opportunity to judge me.

To keep from judging we must cherish the gospel, the gospel message is the “pearl” in the parable. Do not waste time arguing with atheist debaters as they will twist your words against you. Instead show them Christianity by the way you live your life. Pray for them, and pray for yourself.

Love those people because you love God and he loves you and them. Be compassionate with them, they don’t know yet the glorious saving grace of the Lord. Be kind, they think of justice in terms of a weighing scales, not understanding God’s mercy on which we cast ourselves.

Believe me there will be buckets of prayer in this house, this day.

Sermon Seventeen Humble, righteous and merciful

john                                          audio clip

Wesley’s second sermon based on Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount encompassed humility, righteousness and mercy.

He outlines who are the humble, the ones for whom pride and arrogance have no place in their heart. Humility is about relationship. The relationship we have with God and with fellow humans. Wesley says that we should have an attitude of mildness with fellow believers and of gentleness with non-believers.

We are able to be mild and gentle because we are given the ability by the Lord through his love. Once we have experienced his grace and mercy we hunger to share that grace and mercy and love throughout the world.

Humility begins in the heart and it equips us to avoid anger, avoid name calling even to the very mild Aramaic word “Raca.” Turn the other cheek, do not argue with someone else, settle disputes no matter what the personal cost to ourselves.

We must settle disputes, in families, in communities and in churches. Too often people are ready to be offended and offend. The death of a family member can cause a rift between people that lasts for generations and all it takes to stop it, is a handshake, a hug, the giving of a piece of land. God loves us so much, he sent his only Son that whoever cleaved to him would not perish and yet we get hung up over a piece of jewellery or a dresser or a sod of turf. We eagerly, as a society, love to be offended because then we can ride roughshod over the offender. How often is someone hailed as a celebrity one minute and then shot down in a hail of bullets the next?

The barrier of pride and arrogance, that sets us up as better than someone else have to come down. We don’t know their story, we don’t walk in their shoes. We cannot say that this person is righteous and this person isn’t because we can’t see in the hearts of those people. Likewise we cannot present ourselves to the world as humble or righteous or merciful. Our actions must go before us.

One by one people are coming to know Christ because of the lives we lead, not our rhetoric from the pulpit, or our bible knowledge but the way we live authentic lives in Christ. And the lives we lead are a gift from God, we are invisible stepping stones pointing to Christ.

Righteousness is doing what God requires of us. It begins and ends with the love of God, his love for us and our response, our love for him and the love he has for all humans and the love we have for everyone too because first he loved.

We desire to do what is pleasing to the Lord, it doesn’t matter if we sing off key or we stutter over our words as long as the heart is singing and speaking. We hunger and thirst the Lord like a newborn baby thirst and hungers for milk. We long for our spiritual appetites to be filled. We yearn to spend time with the Lord and read his word and communicate with the Living God. And we pray that we never lose this urge and desire that we are always hungering and thirsting after more of Him.

The mercy that God gifts us makes us acutely aware of how many people do not know the Lord. We are tender-hearted and compassionate of those who are not yet believers and we grieve for them because we love them so.

Wesley in his third section uses the great “love” passage from 1 Corinthians again, which has been written about in previous posts.

He ends with a blistering attack on church, all churches not only the RC church but the reformed too. How churches love for another one to be in trouble and rush to mock the afflicted.

But his last few words – May your soul continually overflow with love, swallowing up every evil thought until the day when he calls you to heaven, to the kingdom of love, there to reign with him forever.

Sermon Fifteen The great privilege of God’s children

john                                                   audio clip

 

This is an odd sermon because it sets its stall out in the title but then does not mention privilege again. But the reading which is taken from 1 John 3 gives it sub heading and in there is the crux of the sermon.

IF WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD WE DO NOT SIN

Now I sin and you sin and the whole world sins. If we are children of God we do not sin. Does this make you and me children of devil, slaves to sin. Yes it can mean that but we have the Holy Spirit guiding us so when we do sin by a thought or an action we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We can choose to ignore the prompting of the Spirit but if we do we go down a spiral that could have us like David.

Relativism is the problem that pervades the church. I know – a non Christian philosophy in church.

“I might be prideful but compared to sister xxx I am doing okay”

“I might say the Lord’s name in vain but compared to brother xxx I don’t do it that much”

We compare ourselves, we can even see ourselves as higher Christians and I know many people hurt be these so-called righteous people who can tell other people where they are going wrong but sit in pride and arrogance. We should always keep our eye on some examples from the Bible, come before the Lord as the taxpayer not the Pharisee. I had the great privilege of spending time with a lovely sister in Christ this week. We were discussing the ten commandments in Exodus and I asked what her favourite one was? Yes I know not the easiest of questions to answer. She said, “I don’t know about favourite ones but I know which ones everyone else is breaking.” It was a precious moment in our time together.

We might talk about a fellow sister or brother in Christ to our spouse, we might see a person in church and make a judgement as to whether they are born of the Spirit, we might do and say many things in our own strength that are not of the Lord.

BUT

If we do not pay close attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we will be steeped in sin. Yes we do mess up, we have to be honest and sincere about that. We are not perfect.

BUT

If we are to be authentic Christians we know this and work on the aspects that need to change. My default setting as INTP but in my transformed life I am doing and saying and thinking things that fellow INTPers would baulk at. I am fascinated by what the reaction will be from people who knew me before tomorrow.

Wesley points out a step by step route whereby David committed murder and adultery, where Peter caved at man’s perspective (the Law) and not God’s and also when Barnabas and Paul disagree.

He points to these people but he doesn’t point out how they came back to right thinking. In this there is an omission. He is expecting us as Christians to never sin so points out how to keep from sinning but he isn’t graceful to those of us who do sin and continually ask for forgiveness for this bad thought or deed.

Abstractly someone was saying “Honour your mother and father,” well in very real terms if I were to fully honour my father I would not be a child of God, so I sin to the person not to God. Ultimately God is love, God wants us to be in continual communion with him. It is the distractions that we get caught up in, the devil is in the detail.

He concludes his sermon by saying Watch and pray without ceasing, so that you may always believe, and always love and never fall into sin. Wise words because if we are focused on the Lord and his ways which are perfect then maybe we won’t sin ….